The St. Mary’s High School girls hockey team completed its amazing season with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Arlington Catholic Sunday morning, claiming the Division 1 state championship at the TD Garden.
All-Scholastic senior Alison Butler broke a 1-1 tie with 2:46 left in the game when she blazed a wrist shot past AC goaltender Megan Messuri. It was the 199th point of her sensational career.
St. Mary’s goalie Lauren Skinnion made several key saves in the game, turning in a superb effort on the heels of her stellar performance in a shootout win over No. 1 seed Woburn in the state semifinals.
St. Mary’s played outstanding team defense against the Cougars who had scored 16 goals during their four victories in the State Tournament. Coach Frank Pagliuca praised the penalty-killing unit of Tatiana Doucette, Vanessa VanBuskirk, Kaleigh Finigan, and Butler for being very effective in denying AC during a tense situation late in the second period up 1-0 on the scoreboard.
Senior Gabby Crugnale gave St. Mary’s a 1-0 lead on a goal with 32 seconds left in the first period. Eighth grader Sarah Ryan assisted on the tally. Crugnale used her excellent speed before unleashing a powerful wrist shot with two AC players in the vicinity.
“When I get the puck I just try to skate it and if there’s no one open, I just want to take it down and score,” said Crugnale. “I tried to go around the two players but I shot it and it went in the net and I was really excited. I always wanted to score a goal at the Boston Garden. It feels amazing to be a state champion, especially against AC who beat us last year.”
With the game deadlocked at 1-1 following an AC shorthanded goal and overtime an increasing possibility, it was Butler, one of the state’s most exciting and talented players, who made things happen to the delight of the St. Mary’s fans at the Garden. Butler charged in to the zone with Madison Molea flying on the opposite wing. The Danvers dynamo uncorked a swift, accurate shot that dented the net chords.
“The defense moved up to Madison so I just shot it – a wrist shot,” said Butler. “I was actually trying to shoot far side and the shot went to the place were I wanted it to, for once. Obviously this is the biggest goal of my career.”
Finigan, a captain who gallantly played in the tournament with a separated right shoulder, said winning the state championship was a special achievement for all the players and coaches.
“I told the girls before the game that this is what we’re here for,” said Finigan. “We skate all the time and we do breakouts in practice all the time. We know how big these situations are. We came up big against Woburn and no one even believed in us. I said, ‘let’s prove we’re a better team’ [than Arlington Catholic]. They tied the game and that got us fired up. When Butler scored that goal, I just knew that it lifted us up a lot and we were not going to be denied.”
St. Mary’s principal Carl DiMaiti congratulated head coach Frank Pagliuca, his coaching staff, and players for winning the state championship.
“I really think that the girls did something which is truly remarkable, given the size of their team and the number of young players who had to step up,” said DiMaiti. “I told our athletic director [Jeffrey Newhall] that Frank Pagliuca isn’t the coach of the year – he’s the coach of the century. He just did such a remarkable job. We lost some players to prep school but he never let that interfere with the goal of winning the Catholic Central League and going deep in the tournament.”